Central Valley and Mt. Si had at least two things in common: No one gave either much of a chance to reach the state title game, and they both beat undefeated teams to get there.
No. 3 Mt. Si went undefeated in league to earn the KingCo Crest Division title, but was upset by Woodinville in the second round of the District 1/2 tourney and had to plow through the loser’s bracket to reach regionals.
Once there, although overlooked, they cruised again, and the Wildcats knocked off No. 2 Glacier Peak 62-49 – dealing the Grizzlies their first loss of the season – to reach the championship game.
No. 4 Central Valley, meanwhile, built an impressive resume all season long – including a championship in a holiday tournament in Vancouver – to be largely ignored by the bigger media markets on the west side of the state.
The Bears won the Greater Spokane League and District 8 championships, beat No. 5 Federal Way and No. 11 Skyview at state then knocked off previously undefeated No. 1 Union on Friday to earn their spot in the final.
So when the pair met on Saturday in the title game, it was between teams with nothing to lose – and respect to gain.
In a physical, defensive struggle, Central Valley just couldn’t get a shot to fall. And Mt. Si relied on its superstar.
Jabe Mullins, bound for Saint Mary’s in the fall, scored 26 points and Mt. Si beat Central Valley 58-47 in the State 4A boys basketball championship game at Tacoma Dome on Saturday.
This was the Bears’ fifth trip to the state final, including a championship in 1968.
The Bears (24-3) were led by backup guard Teagen Hoard with 13 points. CV shot 34% from the field and hit just 2 of 9 from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats (26-4) made 56% of their shots, and shot 5 of 11 from distance.
A lot of that offense came from Mullins, who went 9 of 16 from the field and 6 of 6 from the line.
“I thought we kept battling defensively enough to keep us in it,” CV coach Mike Laws said. “We waited for it to turn a little bit – hit two shots and we might be off to the races. I don’t think we ever did get back-to-back baskets, you know, so offensively we just didn’t have a lot of pop in our step.”
Despite the presence of 6-foot-10 junior Gavin Gilstrap in the paint for the Bears, Mt. Si came in with a decided size advantage with seven players 6-6 or better, including the 6-6 all-league guard Mullins.
That definitely played into Mt. Si’s favor, especially early. CV couldn’t buy a bucket from the outside, while Gilstrap had two bodies draped on him every time he touched the ball in the paint.
“Their length kind of got in our head a little bit,” Laws said. “I thought we went in and got kind of passive and it took us while to kind of start. But you know, we didn’t shoot well. And their length impacted that.”
Both teams took a defensive stance early, with no pass unchallenged. Gilstrap’s two free throws 2 1/2 minutes in were the first points of the game. Quin Patterson and Bennett O’Connor hit 3-pointers and Mt. Si jumped out to an 10-2 lead. Mullins bounced in a leaner and Mt. Si led 14-6 after one.
CV had one basket in the quarter and it came in the last minute.
“Gavin saw it early on, a lot of hands on him, a lot of hands on ball.” Laws said of the contact early. “So it took a while for us to adjust, for that to happen. And we just didn’t have the room to operate.”
A 7-0 run at the start of the second pushed the Wildcats’ lead to 21-6 and Laws called timeout. Teagen Hoard gave CV some life with a three-point play and Jayce Simmons made it a 10-point game with a fastbreak layup.
Hoard hit a 3-pointer in transition to make it 23-16. Darling drove for a layup under contact and Hoard got a call and sank two and CV trailed 29-22 at intermission.
“He’s an energizer,” Laws said of Hoard. “And he seemed like the only one on the team with fresh legs. We looked like we had dead legs, and we shouldn’t have. You know, that was the advantage of not playing Wednesday. They look tired, but you know part of that was (Mt. Si’s) length.”
Central Valley’s shooting woes continued in the third. The Bears missed their first three shots before Gilstrap made a turnaround jumper off the glass. Tyler Patterson hit from the wing and CV trailed by 10 after 3 minutes in the third.
CV hit just three of its first nine shots in the quarter, but Ryan Clay hit from NBA range to make it an eight-point game with a minute left.
With 6.4 seconds left, Darling drove the length for a contested layup and converted the three-point play. CV trailed by five entering the fourth.
That’s as close as the Bears got.
Quinn Johnson converted an offensive rebound, but that was CV’s only basket in the first 3 1/2 minutes of the fourth.
Hayden Curtiss hit a follow-up shot, and Mullins’ long 3-pointer as the shot clock horn sounded with Simmons’ hand in his face made it 49-38 with 3:46 to go.
Laws put in senior backups Ski Chalich and Alex Knudsen with 1:35 to go down by 11.
As Laws opted for a quicker lineup, Gilstrap spent much of the second half on the bench. He ended up with eight points and nine rebounds.
Mullins was named the tournament MVP. Simmons was a first-team selection; Gilstrap and Darling made the second team.
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